Dave Smith, center, photographed attending the 2015 North American Music Merchants convention in Anaheim, Calif.
Pete Brown/Wikimedia Commons
The sound of pop music in the '80s was shaped by synthesizers – and one of the most impactful people behind that sound was inventor Dave Smith, creator of the Prophet-5 synthesizer and founder of Sequential Circuits, the instrument's small-scale production company. Though his most well-known inventions were decades in the past, Smith, who died last week at the age of 72, is still remembered with reverence.
"He always knew more about what a musician wanted, or needed, than they did," says keyboardist Roger O'Donnell, who has played synths in some bands you might have heard of – The Cure and The Psychedelic Furs among them. But the legacy of the Prophet-5 is at least, if not eclipsed, by that of another Smith invention: the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI, which allowed digital instruments to speak the same language for the first time. The technology remains in wide use today – thanks in no small part to it being made totally free.
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